This Body, This Thing

September 27th, 2015

This body, this thing. It is not who I am. I have hated it, fought it, loved it, ignored it, accepted it, objectified it, challenged it, pleased it, scolded it, pampered it, scratched it, coddled it, hid it, photographed it. Others have, too.

I am a girl. Society tells me all kinds of shit about this body. Hide it. Flaunt it. Work it. Feed it. Starve it. Clothe it. Disrobe it. Love it. Be ashamed of it. Use it. Offer it. Preserve it. Paint it. Drug it. Heal it. Abuse it. Fuck it.

I am a woman. This body, this thing. It makes me a target. For predators. For misogynists. For politicians. For entitled assholes. For those who think “she’s asking for it”, “she wants it”, “she doesn’t know what she wants.” And I’m told that it is my responsibility to stop them. Not their responsibility to stop themselves. I have to yell No loud enough. I have to fight them hard enough. Or else it is my fault.

I’ve never been raped, but I’ve been taken advantage of. This body, this thing has been used by those who didn’t ask first. Who I had not said yes to. Once, too young to understand. Later, I brushed it off – it’s not me, it’s just this body, this thing. Then I learned better.

So, I am a lot more guarded now. I am better aware of myself, my body, my sexuality. I stay away from those situations where I’m not in control. I speak up for myself, now. I am more careful about feeling obligated to touch or hug people. But mostly, I build walls, so they won’t think those things – “she wants it”, “she’s asking for it.” That makes it harder, though, when I do. Especially because I never want to be on the other side of the equation – assuming the other person wants it without them having explicitly said so.

This body, this thing – it matters. It is part of me. I do not have to use it to please others. It is my choice what I do with it. I am woman, I am human, I am afraid. But I will not let that fear control me. I will not let society make choices for me. This is My Body, My Thing, and I will do with it what pleases me.

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Little Requests

August 23rd, 2012

Stuff and things and more stuff. Car accident today. My brain is a bit scattered… well, even more scattered than usual, I guess. Got rear-ended. Her fault. Head and back ache, but not severe injuries of any kind. Car needs a new bumper. Supposed to be getting an estimate on the repairs soon. Well, technically, should already have gotten that estimate. Ah well. Posts have been a bit odd lately. Lists and things. Even less substance last week, but some good stuff in the digest this week. Added The Perverted Negress to my blogroll, too. Not sure why I didn’t have her there yet. She’s a pretty awesome lady.

This month has just been so busy, and it isn’t letting up any time soon. Anniversaries, birthdays, conventions, parties. The works, all the way through into October and then the holidays hit. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (and all the other December/winter celebrations), and New Year’s. And this past week, what do I tell my parents? That I spend my time working at the store. Twice, my mother asked why didn’t I take the rubber bands off my wrists. I told her they help me keep from scratching (he smacks my hand when I scratch). When she asked again, habit, was my only response.

I don’t like lying to my parents, but it doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers the Engineer. I know that even if they could handle it, my brother wouldn’t, and his kids are far too young for me to be cut out of their lives already. They’re part of the reason we moved back here, and found this amazing community. Wouldn’t that just float his boat?

The rubber bands are important to me. A thing he asked me to do. Being able to do what he asks makes me happy. Having something to look at and think of him makes me happy. I wear two on each wrist now, he only asked for one. But when one breaks, I’d be left with nothing, and they used to break all the time. So, two became my habit, so that I would always have at least one. I hardly ever take them off anymore, except to bathe, or to switch them out for new ones. I feel slightly naked without them, missing something. It might be silly to be attached to something so flimsy and replaceable as rubber bands, but it’s not the bands themselves that I’m attached to. It is the fulfillment of his request that makes me smile.

The same goes with the skirts. I have negotiated away wearing pants in his presence unless I’m leaving the house to go to work, or he specifically gives permission for pants/shorts. Recently, on our theme park trips, he told me I could wear pants or shorts so the skirt wouldn’t get caught in things. I chose shorts, both for the heat, and because I just couldn’t fathom purposefully wearing full length pants around him anymore. Not to say pants haven’t happened, they did just the other day during a slightly panicked situation, and I apologized with a short short skirt a few days later.

My reasons have shifted over the last few years, along with our relationship. Initially, he requested skirts or shorts, for ease of access to whatever he wanted, as my boyfriend and Dom. Later, when we were discussing my partner in crime’s restriction to just skirts, it was decided that even shorts went against this ease of access rule and if she couldn’t have them, neither could I. Some of that has fallen by the wayside, though the theory is still sound. He may still have access to whatever he wants, and skirts facilitate that, and so I am happy to wear them for him.

But for me, the bigger part of it, is the confidence in my body that I have gained. Yes, I still wear long skirts, because they’re fun and flowing, or warm, but my legs are still visible, to varying degrees, depending on what I’m doing. In short skirts, my legs are definitely visible, as well as the shorts I wore to the parks. He enjoys legs, and he enjoys confidence. So, my wearing skirts, or short shorts, makes him smile. I balked, hard, when he first requested this of me. My legs were the biggest part of my body that I wanted to hide. Especially my thighs. But, in the last four years, he has helped me to stop being ashamed of my legs, and to be comfortable in my skin. I am quite grateful for this, though my favorite light skirts are wearing quite thin these days. Good thing we’re heading into fall soon.

It’s the little things. The simple requests. The things that bring a smile to the lips, and joy to the heart. Being able, when so many things are spinning out of control, to do the little things you can do. To give what help you are able. To have some stability and sameness to cling to. To grow and share, and show gratitude. We are busy, and time is so limited right now. But I look down at my wrists and think of him. When he does see me, I’m wearing a skirt, for him. These little things give me comfort, even when we cannot be together, and joy when we can.

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My Body is My Own

June 29th, 2012

One of the things on my mind in the immediate is a lesson I’ve been learning for a long while now, or rather, unlearning the wrong lesson. My body is my own, to do with only that which I want to do. I’m nearly thirty-two years old, you would have thought I’d known this for quite a long time now. And I have gotten better about it. But I’ve also let myself be pressured. I think I’ve posted about this before, but in college, I sometimes viewed my body as a tool, a thing that didn’t really matter. It wasn’t who I was, it was just this outer shell, to use as necessary. I never got into anything terrible or dangerous with this attitude, I just often didn’t care enough to tell someone no, you can’t touch me.

The article I read the other day, went even further than that. It talked about not forcing a child to hug or kiss someone. Letting it be their own choice. The mother in this article had several reasons. One being that she wanted to teach her daughter that her body was her own, to do with only what she wanted. She didn’t want her to grow up feeling like her body was for pleasing others, especially those in authority. The other being because sometimes kids sense things about adults, sense things that make them uncomfortable, and she did not want to force her to hug someone that scared her. How many people do we give physical affection to, just because it’s expected of us? Are we confident enough to say no to someone with their arms out for a hug?

I know that I often struggle with this. I feel guilty if I don’t return a hug to someone offering it. There are certain people I don’t want to hug, so I do everything in my power to keep them from offering one. Either by my body language, keeping a distance, or outright ignoring them. Why don’t I just say no? It’s my body, why should I be more afraid of offending them, than my own feelings of comfort? Because that’s what I was trained to do, programmed from a young age to greet people with a hug.

So, how do I undo that training? First, by being conscious of it. That article made me painfully conscious of it. Second, by looking at myself. When do I behave this way? Why? With whom? Third, taking action. I spoke to hubby a bit about this, about not wanting to feel pressured. He has agreed to help. And I will be more active, and less passive in my offering or denying of physical affection. More conscious. Asking myself to be sure I want to be doing this, and enabling myself to say no, if I don’t.

It is an odd thing to think about. I don’t really have personal space anymore. I don’t mind people being close to me. I don’t understand when people passing a foot away say excuse me. I do excuse myself for doing similar at work, but that’s because I understand other people have personal space. So I don’t mind closeness, but it’s the affection that has me hooked.

My body is my own and I shouldn’t use it to make other people happy, if it doesn’t also please me.

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Within Ourselves

June 10th, 2011

My academic pursuit this month, otherwise known as “I’m tired of packing project,” (unfortunately, yesterday, when I got tired, of packing I fell asleep instead of posting) is The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt, which I posted about the first time I read it. This week, I read Part 1: Within Ourselves, and took down quotes I found pertinent or important to me. So, I thought I’d make this week’s post a discussion of those quotes. I divided them into five categories: Sex, Poly, Social Programming, Communication and Internal Struggles.

Let’s start with Social Programming. This group is about overcoming our social programming so we can live the life we want to live and be true to oneself. “Our programming is changeable.” “You are already whole.” “ Great sluts are made, not born.” “People… free of shame, would trust their own sense of right and wrong.” (pp. 6, 34, 59, 71) So, what do all these quotes mean to me?

I grew up in a religiously based household, taught ‘how things ought to be’ from a young age. One husband, one wife, kids, and pets. Sex inside marriage only. And no kinky stuff. So, the first quote, of programming being changeable. I don’t have to live with the programming my parents gave me. It worked for them, but it does not have to be mine as well. If it doesn’t work for me, then I can change it to fit myself. The third quote goes along with that. It takes work to overcome social programming, to make myself into what I want to be. I cannot just assume I have all the skills and understanding to live the way I want to live. I have to learn and grow and create my life.

The second quote. Being whole. Society likes to push marriage and kids onto us. You aren’t a grown up, until you’re married. You aren’t fulfilling your purpose until you have kids. And on and on. Not everyone wants to be married, not everyone wants to have kids. There is nothing wrong with either of these things. You are a whole person, in and of yourself, without the need for a relationship or offspring to validate your existence.

The final quote, came from Wilhelm Reich’s speeches to young Communists in Germany in 1936. He was speaking against free expression and sexuality, because this would prevent an authoritarian government. I think it is a good point, though. Without social programming telling us that what we feel is wrong and dirty, we would be free to trust our own judgment, our own selves, about what was good and right for us, and what was wrong. That would certainly reduce our unnecessary guilt and self-recriminations.

So, on that note, let’s move on to Internal Struggles, a lot of which come from Social Programming. “Each person owns her own feelings. No one ‘makes’ me feel jealous, or insecure – the person who makes me feel that way is me.” “Knowing, loving and respecting yourself is an absolute prerequisite to knowing, loving and respecting someone else.” “You must speak truth, first to yourself, then to those around you.” “Shame, and beliefs we were taught that our bodies, desires and sex are dirty and wrong, make it very hard to develop a healthy self-esteem.” “Do remember: your sexiness is about how you feel, not how you look.” (pp. 65, 67, 67, 93, 94)

To live this life, I have had to look inside me, to consider myself and my truth a lot more than I ever did before. I have to take responsibility for myself, my feelings, and my actions, something that in today’s society it seems to be more popular to blame others for. Yes, things people say or do upset me, but it is me choosing to react that way. Me choosing to let it bother me. Me choosing whether to talk to them about it, or brood silently. My choice to let negativity fester or toss it out into the light to die. To be in control of my emotions and my reactions, I have to know myself, love myself and respect myself enough to look for the truth in myself. I have to figure out what’s really going on inside me, so I can share it with those that matter.

A wonderful side effect of this lifestyle I have chosen, has been a much better body image and self-esteem. I grew up hiding my body, wearing baggy shirts and jeans year round. Boys hardly every looked at me before college, and I never gave them a reason to. One day in high school, my mother must have been having a bad day, because she told me I was fat. I took this to mean she thought I was ugly and unattractive. Just one stray comment and I held onto it for years. I didn’t believe that I weighed too much, but unattractive, absolutely.

Then I started dating, but I was still hiding in my clothes. Boys were interested in me, some told me I was attractive. But I didn’t believe them. I started having sex and doing kinky things. Boys didn’t run screaming from my body. That seemed like a good thing. My dad once told me I should get sexy underwear so I’d feel better about myself. That was strange. Dated some more, here and there and around the world. Still hiding. Got married, continued to hide, though I got cuter clothes from hubby and his mom. Other men were still attracted to me. That was strange to me. Why would they look at me? Talk to me sure, I’m bright and fun, but look at me?

We swung a bit and then became poly. We joined a few groups, and started going to events. I got more and more compliments, and people appreciating my body, my energy, my sexiness. I was encouraged to wear cuter (and shorter) outfits. I gained confidence in not just my body, but myself. The community is full of so many people of different body types, and people are attracted to them all. People are attracted to skin, to body parts, to men, to women, to everything and everyone. I learned that you don’t have to be perfect, or a certain size, shape, or height. You just have to comfortable and happy in your own skin. If you feel sexy(and sometimes even when you don’t), you are sexy.

Next, let’s explore Poly. “We tend to like our lives complicated, with lots of stuff going on to keep us interested and engaged.” “Is there some virtue in being difficult?” “The human capacity for sex and love and intimacy is far greater than most people think.” “What rewards can you foresee that will compensate you for doing the hard work of learning to be secure in a world of shifting relationships?” “I don’t have to fulfill every single thing my partner needs or wants.” “Faithfulness is about honoring your commitments and respecting your friends and lovers.” “You don’t have to force anyone into a mold that doesn’t fit: all you have to do is enjoy how you do fit together, and let go of the rest.” (pp. 7, 29, 36, 59, 59, 63, 73)

I’ll start at the top. Complicated lives. I’ve always kept busy. Band, theater, gaming, volunteering, writing, working, studying. My love life was often complicated, even before I came out as poly. I spent time with multiple guys, or with guys who had girlfriends elsewhere, or with different guys in different countries. I flirted online a lot, with men, women and couples. The first time hubby proposed to me, he was already engaged to someone else. I love order and organizing, but my life has always been fairly complicated. It’s not that I’m easy, I have standards, but I agree with Dossie and Catherine, why be intentionally difficult?

Our capacity for love and intimacy is huge. We love family, friends, lovers, pets, people we see on TV, even characters in books or shows. All in different ways, perhaps, but that’s a lot of love, and we always have more for new people coming into our lives. Why should romantic love be different? If everyone is honest and respectful, then, to me, everyone is being faithful. I always did like the song from Kiss Me, Kate with the chorus “Always true to you baby, in my fashion. I’m always true to you baby, in my way.”

Then we get to the rewards for all this learning and growing into the people we want to be. And the remaining two quotes answer that one. In poly, thanks to poly, I don’t have to try and be everything, and do everything, and fit into a mold of the “perfect partner.” I can be me, and they can be themselves, and we find out what needs we can fulfill for each other, and enjoy those things together.

This leads right into Communication, the most important thing, for me, in poly. “Consent – an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” “They may be shy in the seductive stages, and bolder once welcome has been secured. Women tend to want explicit permission, and for each specific act.” “Talk clearly and listen effectively.” “Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support is extremely important.” “It’s vital to be able to give reassurance and support.” “Lots of hugging, touching, verbal affection, sincere flattery.” “You need to know how and when to say no.” “The historical censorship of discussion about sex has left us with another disability: the act of talking about sex… has become difficult and embarrassing.” “What you can’t talk about, you can hardly think about.” “Most of us have been struck dumb by the scariest communication task of all – asking for what we want.” “If you are not free to say ‘no,’ you can’t really say ‘yes.’” “You have a right to your limits and it is totally okay to say no to [anything] you don’t like or are not comfortable with.” (pp. 21-2, 49, 61, 61, 62, 62, 63, 95, 95, 101, 103, 106)

Several different subcategories here. Staring with general communication – being able to speak clearly as well as listen. I have learned, over the last few years, that what one person says and the other person hears, are not always the same thing. I have learned the importance of restating what I think the other person is trying to communicate, so he can agree, or try another way of explaining.

Being able to communicate needs and wants (as well as knowing the difference), and being able to hear the same from my partners has been vital to our relationships. I still have trouble taking about sex out loud, and am sometimes embarrassed to write about it. But we work together, and talk together, and we open with each other and I am more and more able to talk about it. It’s still not perfect, nothing ever is. But I am learning and growing, and overcoming the embarrassment and shame of my social programming.

Being able to ask for and receive reassurance and support, in any number of ways, can be hard. Why should I have doubts and need reassurance after all this time? Well, because I’m human, and imperfect and the little devil on my shoulder, or the little voice in my head gets too loud sometimes, and I need help shouting him down. And it has been very important to me, that my partners have been there to give me that. Even if all I need is a hug, or the words I love you, to calm me down, and even more so, when I’ve wanted a flogging or tight rope bondage.

Then there is consent. I like their definition: “an active collaboration for the benefit, well-being and pleasure of all persons concerned.” We want to have fun, be safe and healthy and work together for these things. Consent is for everyone, tops, bottoms, masters, slaves, doms, subs, husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends. It is not just one person consenting to the other, it is both(or more) people consenting to each other. And being able to say no, is just as important as being able to say yes. You have to be able to say no, or yes doesn’t mean anything. There’s consensual non-consent, and there are no-limit slaves, but in the end, if you cannot ultimately turn and walk away, then you are not really consenting to be there.

On to happier topics – Sex. “Sex is nice and pleasure is good for you.” “We have never met anyone who has low self-esteem at the moment of orgasm.” “The existence of her clitoris was proof positive that God loved her.” “Sex is whatever the people engaging in it think it is… if you… feel sexual… that’s sex, for you.” “Sex is a healthy force in our lives.” “We like to think that all sensual stimulation is sexual, from a shared emotion to a shared orgasm.” “When sex becomes goal-oriented, we may focus on what gets us to orgasm to the exclusion of enjoying all the nifty sensations that come before (and, for that matter, after).” “Sexually successful people masturbate.” (pp. 4, 19, 27, 39. 40, 92, 96, 98)

We live in a culture of double standards. Sex sells – well, everything. But we are taught to avoid it, that it’s dangerous, that it’s only for marriage, that touching ourselves is disgusting. We are taught to be embarrassed by sexuality. But sex is wonderful, and it’s not just about intercourse, or orgasms. Being a kinky person, there are so many different ways that I find sensual and sexual pleasure. Being poly, hubby and I have a very strict definition of what sex is, in regards to our rules about who we can “have” it with. But that is about intercourse and sexual//reproductive health. We give and receive sensual and sexual stimulation with a lot of different people, in a lot of different ways, including our own selves. Intercourse is great, orgasms are great, but they are not the end all and be all of our sexual lives. We like things complicated, remember? I really enjoy the sex-positive nature of this book and the confidence it reminds me to have about myself and my desires in a culture that tells me I am wrong and disgusting in so many ways. I love my life, and I am happy with who I am.

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Bruises, Stripes and Kisses

November 13th, 2009

I am a girl. (Shocking, I know.) What I mean is, I was raised in a world where body image is highly valued and hard to come by. Very few girls grow up loving their bodies. Very few women don’t have something they’d like to change about their appearance. So, for someone who struggles with body image, marks are a particularly interesting challenge.

For me, it has been a journey.

I’m a clumsy person, accident prone. I bruise easily and they don’t go away quickly. Thus I’ve always had a bruise or two, usually on my legs from tables, counters and chairs. But those are small and explainable, and generally hidden by pants.

In college, I discovered biting, and occasionally came home with Very large marks on my neck. I’d wear a scarf when “adults” were around (Parent’s Weekend, twice), but mostly I just giggled because it had been really fun getting the “hickey.”

Then I joined the local community.

There were rope suspensions that left tiger stripe bruises. The discovery of suspension was so wonderful to me that I treasured these marks, the represented the incredible experience I was having.

As I moved into heavier play, there came more bruising, bigger bruising, whip kisses. If I was going out in public where these bruises would be visible, I would ask my partners to not bruise me. I was ashamed of the marks. They seemed to me to show how “bad” I was. Show the world that I do “inappropriate” things.

But the longer I stayed active in the community, the more I came to truly understand there was nothing wrong with what I was doing. That it was part of me. That it was part of my being. That what I was doing was coming out of love and trust and joy. The bruises, like the rope marks, came to symbolize the relationships, the happiness, the fun and the pleasure.

There were also pictures and a photographer that teased that the bruises were marring his shots. This was the hardest part for me. He is a good friend and his words struck old chords in me. That I was doing something “bad” and “wrong” and I should be ashamed. With the help of my partners, I dragged myself back out of this hole. Now when he asks if he’ll ever get pictures of me without bruises, I just grin and tell him Nope. They are a part of me, part of who I am and what I do. Some girls get diamonds, I think my bruises are prettier.

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